Classic EN #TBT: The Great ‘Live Bogging’ Non-Miracle of Fair Hill 2009

A great moment in EN typo history.

Live blogging, AKA posting real-time updates as a competition unfolds, comes standard in EN reporting these days. We try to do it for all the big events, especially on cross country day, as live scores alone never tell the whole story. You see someone picked up 20, but what happened and where? We can fill you in on those sorts of details. Readers appreciate it because they can follow the action at a glance, especially when there’s not a live stream to watch (or if watching live streamed horse shows for hours at a stretch is frowned upon in your workplace), and they’re great for tiding folks over until we can get a full report up at the end of the day.

Ten years ago, however, live blogging was not “a thing” yet, at least not in the horse world. Following events in realtime wasn’t something people did. If we wanted a nitty-gritty play-by-play, we hovered over the mailbox until our next Chronicle issue was delivered. An equestrian media outlet or two had played around with live blogging, like the Eventing Radio Show, which tried it at Kentucky, and it was being used in other sports.  John, baby publisher of newborn website Eventing Nation, discovered the live blog concept via ESPN and wondered if it might translate to the eventing realm.

John circa 2012. Photo used without permission from John’s Facebook page.

In October 2009, when EN was the tender age of three or four days old, John marched off to Fair Hill to launch his website in earnest and see if the live blog concept might catch in our sport.

John outlined his gameplan in this post:

“Barring any unforeseen problems, I will be sitting by the XC and typing as fast as I possibly can about who is on course, what jumps they are at, what happens at those jumps, and any other exciting developments.  My typing will appear–as I type it–right onto the Eventing Nation homepage.”

But unforeseen problems there were aplenty. After a day of highs and lows, he reflected on EN’s live blog debut:

“Today’s live blog was a truly extraordinary experience.  On one hand, I was freezing cold, very wet, felt like no one was reading, felt like I was misspelling every word, felt like I was boring, felt l was writing too little about each jump, felt like I was providing too little commentary,  etc.  On the other hand, when I stopped after 3.5 hours of madly typing, I saw that our traffic was through the roof, and that I had received some wonderful support.”

By traffic “through the roof,” John meant 156 live blog views, which I have charted above against one of our most-viewed cross country live blogs ever, the 2016 Rio Olympics. Fair Hill doesn’t even show up. It’s pretty cute. But go on, baby John!

“In one incredible moment, about three hours in, my computer battery finally started to die.  It was at 3% power and I was about to retreat to a plug, which would mean I could only hear Brian’s announcing but not see any of the action.  Just then, Karen started on course, with Phillip soon to follow, and I thought what horrible timing! I decided to stay out on course and keep typing until the bitter end.  My battery ran out, and then my computer kept going.

I live blogged on 0% power for 10 minutes.  I thought it was an Eventing Nation miracle, but I have since been informed that computers have two batteries, the main one and a small backup, who knew.

“At any rate I woke up at 5am and I need to get some sleep.  Because Eventing Nation does not exactly have a travel budget, I brought a sleeping bag and I am planning to camp out in my truck for the night.  But, if I don’t freeze to death, I look forward to seeing you at the live blog(s) tomorrow.  The factors that will influence my decision to live blog the jog and CCI2* are basically the weather and battery life.  I am also concerned that I might make people angry if I live blog the jog.  If someone were to break out a hairdo like Jon Holling’s combover in the first jog, I would not be kind.  Jon knows I kid because I love, so please check out the Holling Eventing website to make him happy with me again.

“Thanks for visiting Eventing Nation.”

Lots of things have changed since that fateful Fair Hill in 2009. John and his little baby “bog” are all grown up. Over seven million readers have visited EN since then. We reporters (usually) don’t have to sleep in our cars anymore. Facepalm-worthy headline typos are fewer and further between. We’re a little more cautious about making fun of people’s hair. But at our core we’re still the same website we’ve always been. We’re still out there at the events, typing furiously, swearing at our laptop batteries, trying our best to make you feel like you’re hunkered down in the middle of the action, too.